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Reluctant Ex-Pats: U.S. Born Kids Face Deportation As Well

News Report, Story: Julie Johnson, Photos: David Pham, Video: Angel Luna and Raj Jayadev Posted: Apr 04, 2007

Editor's Note: When parents are deported, their U.S.-born children have two "choices" -- leave with their parents or stay in foster care to continue availing of educational opportunities here. The Ramirez children know how painful this decision is.

With a crowd of TV cameras and adults with microphones towering over them, Adrian, Yadira and Adriana Ramirez 6, 10 and 12 years old sat on a bench outside of First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto yesterday, and shyly told the news crews that though they wanted to stay at their home in Palo Alto, they would go to Mexico to be with their father, who was deported an hour after his arrest by Immigration Customs and Enforcement officers.

The Ramirez children are among thousands of U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents who are facing deportation and have to decide whether to bring their children with them -- taking them away from the educational opportunities they have a right to in the United States -- or let them stay and be forced into foster care.

But even at 12 Adrian knows that to be deported or stay in foster care isnt a real choice. He said what he really wants is to stay like a family and not be separated.

boy Adrian, a seventh grader at Terman Middle School, speaks Spanish but cant write in Spanish and can only read a little. He wants to stay at his school in Palo Alto. If I go, he said, Id leave my friends behind.

Yadira, a fifth grader at Barron Park Elementary School, agreed. We wanna study here.

ICE officers arrested their parents, Pedro Ramirez and Isabel Aguirre, as the couple walked to their car on the morning of Feb. 28. Ramirez, who has lived in the United States since 1985 and worked at Albertsons supermarket for the past nine years, was deported before he could cash his last paycheck, and family friends report he arrived in Tijuana penniless and without a place to go.

Aguirre is currently under house arrest with a monitoring bracelet and must leave the country by Friday, April 6. Community members have now raised enough money to help her buy plane tickets so she can bring her children with her otherwise, the kids would have been placed in foster care. The press conference in Palo Alto was organized by American Muslim Voice in collaboration with a number of interfaith and community groups.

Palo Alto Online News reports that the immigration attorney representing Ramirez and Aguirre, Miguel Gadda, failed to renew their work permits or submit their green card applications. Gadda has since been disbarred by the California State Bar Court for several counts of misconduct, including a number of cases that resulted in his clients being deported.

Adrian said his older brother Pedro, named after his father, was too upset to attend the press conference. A sophomore at Henry M. Gunn High School, Pedro has changed from a sociable kid who does his work to a morose student who cant concentrate in class, according to his math teacher Chris Schultz.

teacher According to Schultz, his Latino students are especially afraid, and the school has brought them together to discuss whats happening. At the meeting, most students, regardless of their citizenship status, expressed some fear about going to school and for the safety of their families.

All I can do is tell them I support them and that [school] is a safe place, Schultz said.

A family was suffering quietly in our own backyard since February 28, said Samina Faheem Sundas, the founding executive director of American Muslim Voice, who helped organize the press conference.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has arrested more than 18,000 people so far in nationwide immigration raids as part of its initiative begun last year, Operation Return to Sender.

kids The raids are targeting the Latino community and circumventing due process, said Gloria Nieto, policy director for SIREN, and a speaker at the event. Nieto noted that for every person deported, a family and community is disrupted.

Imagine in Massachusetts the 600 agents used to pick up 300 people, she adds. Thats 300 stories.

When asked what advice hed give other U.S. born children with undocumented parents facing a similar choice, for the first time in a confident voice, Adrian said to stay strong and care about your family.

See More Disappeared In America

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